11 Traits of a High Performance Sales Culture

August 31, 2013 at 7:00 AM

How do you know if your sales force is a high-performing one?  This post lists some attributes of high-performance sales cultures.  Also, it discusses one symptom of a non-high performing culture - high turnover. A Culture Creation tool is available by here. It lists 11 traits of high performance sales cultures. A bonus tool is included to help create a common vision.

High performance sales culture traits and tool by SBI

Sales Turnover - A Symptom of a Low Performing Sales Culture

Sales Rep turnover at AdzaTran (a B2B transportation equipment supplier) has been increasing lately.  Dani, the VP of North America Sales, is frustrated. Working with Hank, her HR Business Partner, she has tried various ideas.  She's tweaked the hiring profile. Modified the sales compensation and quotas.  Revised sales territories. Shifted around Sales Managers. Implemented standardization of tools and processes. She thought these changes were helping. However, Hank's analysis showed bad news.  The turnover rate was still stubbornly high. 

High-Performance Sales Culture Traits

Hank learned from Dani that he couldn't show up with just the problem. So, he did some research and was prepared for his talk with Dani.  He learned that sales force success was 50% talent and 50% performance conditions.  He also learned of the attributes of high-performance sales teams.  Here is a list of some of them.  Download the complete Culture Creation tool today.

sales culture

  • Agile - Agile cultures look to get results quickly through fast changes – changes that may not be perfect, but cause tangible, positive effects in alignment with the organization's appetite for change.
  • Accountable - The culture is built on accountability to meet targets and expectations from the top on down.  A continuous message permeates about getting it done and making efforts, not excuses.  The culture also allows for individuals to raise their hands when obstacles are in the way, but doesn't let anyone bring just the problem without a solution.
  • Common vision - A set of "marching orders" is created, enabled and lived by the members of the team. As part of the common vision, expectations are clear.
  • Celebrates success and failure - A high-performing culture celebrates successes AND failures, but especially regards excellence with higher rewards.  Success, failure and excellence are all defined so everyone knows what to shoot for. The culture does not hide or shy away from failures, but takes the time to understand them and learn from them.

Creating a Common Vision - One Trait of High Performance

Now, Dani and Hank had done a lot to improve the talent side.  However, Hank saw they were missing a high-performance trait.  That was a common vision for the sales team.  Hank had analyzed exit interviews and the performance management data.  He found that Reps felt isolated and unsure of expectations.  Hank proposed that Dani work on a common vision for the sales force.  He shared these four steps to follow in doing so. 

1. Start with the company's vision and values.  The Sales vision has to be aligned to the company's vision and values. Vision is a shared creation of a team’s future and success.  Values drive personal decision making and are foundational to making choices. Values need to be actionable and measurable, not just some platitude like "excellence".

2. Gather input from your sales force. Use the Culture Creation Tool questions to ask your team of Reps questions.  You can get this tool along with many others by registering for the SBI Making the 2013 Number tour. This tool helps get an idea from your team on potential vision challenges.

3. Hold a vision creation workshop over 2 half days.  During this workshop, work through defining these four areas, using results from step 2:

a. Purpose - Define the purpose - your team’s reason for existence. It  answers “why” you do rather than “what” you do.

b. Picture - Define an end goal - the aim of the team. What is the picture of where you want your team to be and by when?

c. Values - Define clear values of what you stand for. What each AE holds important; what each person wants to live and work by; how personal values are in line with CCOA values; what can be personally acted on; what are reachable and observable.

d. Vision - Define how your team will live the vision. This includes how it will be communicated (openly, consistently, repeatedly). How team members will commit to it. How the vision will be made a regular focus. How vision will be the judge of behaviors.

4. Live the vision to make it real, not just a plaque on a wall.  Refer to it often, in meetings, emails, conversations. Use it to direct personal and team member development actions. Share it with everyone. Update it if necessary.

Next Steps to Creating Your Own High Performance Sales Culture

Hank helped Dani lead her team through a common vision creation.  Having the team mutually create the vision upped the morale.  Initially, the vision creation caused yet more turnover.  That's because Dani asked each team member if they could commit to the vision. One rep decided it wasn't for him and decided to resign.  For the rest of the team, though, there is much more engagement.  Hank thinks this will finally reduce the turnover rate. 

What should HR and Sales Leaders do? 

1. Get the Culture Creation tool.  Use it to check on the full list of high-performance sales team traits. You can get it by registering here.

2. Determine what traits may be lacking. Plan on how to improve them. 

3. Run the team through a common vision creation workshop.  Use the other part of the Culture Creation tool to get input from your team.  Follow the steps that Hank used above.

4. Prepare for higher performance.  This may mean you'll have more orders. Give the delivery or operations side of the house a heads up.


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Topics: Talent Management, Human Resources, Sales Leadership, Sales Force Effectiveness, Performance Management, Sales Turnover

Posted by Steve Loftness

Steve Loftness
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